David Searcy, the first Lees-McRae campus police chief, bids a fond farewell to the department he built

The first campus police chief in Lees-McRae College history, David Searcy, will be leaving the college at the end of the Spring 2022 semester. Searcy is passing the torch of campus police chief to Brandon Greer.  

“My time here on campus has been excellent. Getting to know the students and watching them prepare themselves to go into their futures is something I will always cherish,” Searcy said.  

Chief Searcy was sworn in on May 26, 2020, with the specific responsibility to build the college’s first campus police department. This was a new challenge for him after spending almost 30 years serving in the North Carolina Highway Patrol.  

Searcy joined the North Carolina State Highway Patrol in Watauga County in 1991 and retired from the force in 2019. During his tenure with the patrol, he took on many roles for the department.  

“I specialized in defensive tactics and officer survival training. I had a very blessed career with my law enforcement experience,” Searcy said. 

After his retirement, he did not know what was next for him. During his brief retirement period Searcy took the time to reflect on his life and appreciate his motivations for becoming a trooper.  

“I think the best thing I took from my six months of retirement was being able to sit back and find myself again. I’m a Christian, I’m a husband, and I’m a father. The honor associated with everything wrapped up in there is what made me the man I was in my career,” Searcy said.  

Although Searcy and his wife, a teacher, had planned to spend their retirement together, fate and Lees-McRae Executive Director of Operations HD Stewart had other ideas. Shortly after retiring from the highway patrol, Searcy was presented with a new once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.   

“Lees-McRae called in June of 2019 and offered me a chance to build a police department from the ground up. Developing it from the ground up was a great challenge and I enjoyed it. To now see the campus have a fully functional police department is a great accomplishment,” Searcy shared.  

Searcy was faced with the exciting challenge of coming to the college and experiencing a new side of law enforcement. Developing policies and procedures that were in accordance with constitutional law, state law, and campus policy allowed him to see law enforcement from a different perspective. Campus law enforcement is unlike traditional law enforcement because of the particular roles an officer takes on when dealing with college students daily.  

“When you do law enforcement for as long as I’ve done it, you see society through a tinted lens. Law enforcement officers, in general, do not see people on their best days. Coming here, it allowed me to look at situations differently and not be narrow minded. I built trust up with myself and students where students feel comfortable to stop by my office and talk,” Searcy said. 

“The greatest thing I’m going to take from here is the friendships I developed,” he continued. “Hopefully I have served in a capacity that fits the needs of the faculty, staff, and students not just as a law enforcement officer, but as a friend.” 

Many students around campus did view Searcy as someone to confide in as a friend and not just as an officer. The relationships built between the police department and the students created a healthy environment for transparent conversations.  

Micale Harris, a senior Criminal Justice major, said, “Searcy came here when our campus police department was nothing. He and HD Stewart built it from the ground up. From day one, he was upfront and honest about what he wanted to do. He set out to do it and has been a great influence not only on me and my friends, but the whole campus as well. I have learned a lot from Searcy and am glad to call him a friend.” 

I also grew close to Searcy during my time at Lees-McRae. With Searcy, we had an officer we could talk to, and it was never a power dynamic between student and officer. We could be comfortable around Searcy and there was always mutual respect. 

Searcy has left a positive impact on this campus for many students, faculty, and staff. When asked how he wants to be remembered, he simply answered with a line that epitomizes the man and officer he is: “honorable and a friend.”  

His commitment to the college was rooted in a biblical passage that gave him motivation to live his life in a certain way. He explained, “When I came across Titus 2:7 in the Bible, that verse spoke to me about honor and integrity and letting your walk show that. That is what I want to be remembered for here.”  

Searcy will be remembered and missed by anyone that was impacted by his time here. The next step in his career will be to run for the office of sheriff for Watauga County in North Carolina.  

“A lot of people in Watauga County have asked me to run for the office of sheriff again. When I leave here on April 29, I am going to devote my full time into campaigning,” Searcy said.  

We appreciate Chief Searcy and everything he has done for the campus. The foundation that Searcy helped build during his time here will continue to do amazing things for the police department of Lees-McRae for years to come.  

By Brian Sims ’22April 22, 2022
Campus Life